AUGUSTA — Now that Republican Gov. Paul LePage has forecast a veto for a bill that makes legal the sale of recreational adult-use marijuana in Maine, all eyes are on the Legislature and whether it will uphold its previous votes to support the bill or allow LePage’s veto to stand.

But even if lawmakers overturn LePage’s veto, it’s uncertain whether he would move to make recreational sales a reality or simple wait out his time in office without any action.

As it is, according to some lawmakers, LePage could move now to set up a legal marketplace under the law passed at the ballot box in 2016.

The bill, L.D. 1719, expected to hit LePage’s desk later this week, is the work of a special committee on marijuana legalization that spent months crafting a bill that would set in place all the regulatory provisions, including everything from taxes to grow-operation regulations to product labeling. The bill received initial approval in both the Maine House and the state Senate, with votes of 112-34 and 24-10, respectively – more than the two-thirds margins that would be necessary to overturn a LePage veto.

Still, LePage and some of his allies, especially those in the House Republican minority caucus, have regularly succeeded in getting their members to change votes on vetoes in order to back the Republican governor.

Based on the recent roll call votes, LePage would have to change the minds of as many as 12 lawmakers in the House but only two in the Senate to have his veto sustained.


Both the House and the Senate need two-thirds of their members who are present and voting to support the override.

There are also lawmakers who support legalized recreational marijuana but oppose the version of legalization provided in the bill before them, making them de facto allies of LePage.

Both Democrats and Republicans who support legalized adult-use recreational marijuana have voted against the current bill, saying it goes too far to restrict the law passed by voters in 2016.

Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, said there were two camps in the Legislature that were against the bill – those who oppose legalized marijuana on its face and those who feel the Legislature has gone too far to subvert the will of the voters.

“We thought that it went too far in terms of restricting some of the freedoms that are already in place,” Brakey said. “I’m not that happy with how high the tax rate is, but the biggest frustration for me is the way that people are being limited by this bill as to what they can do on their own private property and the fact that social clubs were completely taken out of this referendum despite the fact that was a major part of the original law passed by voters.”

Brakey said he and others who could vote to sustain LePage’s veto will also do so because they believe the law already in place could be made to work by the administration, were it determined to do so. He said even passing the current bill over LePage’s veto doesn’t mean the governor will move quickly toward opening the recreational marijuana marketplace in Maine.

“The law already gives the departments the authority they need to start creating the rules,” Brakey said. “I don’t know that the bill passing or failing will have any effect.”

At least one additional vote on the bill in the Senate is expected before it heads to LePage’s desk. The governor will then have 10 days to decide whether he will veto, sign or allow the bill to become law without his signature. The measure includes an emergency clause, meaning it would become effective immediately upon passage, but that too requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.


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